Boeing and NASA hope to fly a new version of the X-48 blended-wing body subscale test aircraft next month, a senior company official says.
"We're looking to fly roughly middle to late next month," says Mike Kisska, Boeing's X-48C programme manager. "We have a roughly six-month flight test programme."
The new X-48C configuration will repeat many of the same test-points as the previous X-48B. The different configurations will help the programme compare the two different designs at various flight conditions to determine which one works better, Kisska says. The X-48C should fly about 25 flights before the end of the year, he says. Many of those tests will evaluate low speed high angle of attack handling characteristics.
The new X-48C configuration is different from the X-48B in some important ways, Kisska says. The old design's winglet rudders have been replaced inboard vertical tails. That should help reduce a full-scale operation aircraft's noise footprint, he says. Also, instead of three engines on the X-48B, the C-model has only two.
The idea behind the X-48C is reduce emissions, Kisska says, but the primary goal of the programme is to evaluate aircraft handling characteristics.
Right now, however, there are no plans to build a fourth version of the aircraft or develop a follow-on model. NASA's environmentally responsible aircraft (ERA) could be one programme where the blended-wing body technology could find a home, he says. "Logically, we'd like to go to a larger demonstrator," Kisska says.
The ultimate goal of the X-48 programme is to develop technologies for a low emissions future subsonic transport, Kisska says.